LABOR Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III disclosed that the signing by the Phililppines of bilateral agreements with China and Canada for the protection of Filipino workers in the two labor markets has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were supposed to sign a bilateral agreement with Canada and China. If not for the lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we would have had POLO offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen in China, and in Vancouver, Canada,” he said.
The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) attends to the needs of distressed overseas Filipino workers and other labor disputes involving Filipino migrant workers.
“Because of this lockdown, we cannot go there to sign [the agreements]. We have to ensure that we are sending our OFWS to a destination where their rights are well protected,” Bello pointed out.
“So these agreements are not yet to be signed. Maybe we can sign it by first quarter of next year,” he added.
Based on the Department of Labor and Employment’s records, at least 1.6 million OFWs were displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the 1.6 million, around 500,000 have been repatriated to the Philippines after losing their jobs—a situation that prompted the government to extend assistance to the OFWs and their families as well.
Meanwhile, at least 12,816 Filipinos abroad have been infected with COVID-19 based on the data from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Of this number, 3,654 are undergoing treatment, 8,234 were discharged while 928 died.